Michael W. Smith Honored For Three Decades Of Influential Hits

Michael W. Smith. Photo: Kurt Heinecke

Contemporary Christian Music luminary Michael W. Smith was honored last night (April 30) by the top names in Contemporary Christian, Gospel, country and pop music, for his 35-year career in music. Notably, in the same time span, Smith has earned 35 No. 1 singles.

Host Kathie Lee Gifford said that the original idea for the concert was to welcome 35 artists to celebrate 35 years, but interest from the artist community swelled, and last night more than 50 artists gathered to perform three hours’ worth of songs recorded or written by Smith, as well as some classic hymns and surprises.

Gifford began the evening by bringing out Smith and his wife Deborah, who took their seats on stage. But when artists are honoring a talented singer/songwriter/pianist whose music helped shape what became the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) genre, and who also penned numerous classics such as Amy Grant’s “Thy Word” as well as his own 1983 hit “Great Is The Lord” (which he co-wrote with his wife Debbie), and his 1991 crossover hit “Place In This World” (co-written with Amy Grant), it’s tempting to bring him in for collaborations, which they did often throughout the evening.

Amy Grant, Wynonna, Randy Travis, Steven Curtis Chapman, Jordin Sparks with Jordan Smith, Rascal Flatts, The Backstreet Boys’ Brian Littrell, Charlie Daniels, the Gatlin Brothers, Vince Gill with Wayne Kirkpatrick, Matthew West, Avalon, The Oak Ridge Boys, CeCe Winans, Francesca Battistelli, Sandi Patty, Natalie Grant, Ricky Skaggs with the Isaacs, Jason Crabb, Lee Greenwood, Mark Lowry, Jim Brickman, T. Graham Brown and more performed throughout the evening.

Several video messages came from former President George W. Bush, U2’s Bono and Franklin Graham.

Backstreet Boys’ Brian Littrell offered a stunning vocal that held closely to Smith’s original on “Place In This World.” Matthew West offered “Go West Young Man,” while Charlie Daniels offered the hymn “How Great Thou Art,” before giving up one of his own signature hits.

“This is probably the most secular song ever, but Michael wants it and Michael gets it,” Daniels said, before bringing fire and fiddle for a rendition of “Devil Went Down To Georgia,” as Smith joined on piano and background vocals.

Rascal Flatts offered a moving rendition of “Pray For Me,” and later Randy Travis walked onstage with his wife Mary Travis, where they greeted and hugged Smith.

Smith was later joined onstage by the members of his original band. They brought him an original tour jacket, before he sat behind the piano for “Could He Be Messiah,” “Be Strong,” and “You Need A Savior.”

MercyMe lead singer Bart Millard greeted the crowd, and explained that though the band was set to perform, he was sick with laryngitis. He invited Smith to take his place to lead his hit “Secret Ambition.”

Several comedians were also featured throughout the evening, including Steve Lowry, who performed a snippet of his parody “Face In This World.” “We are the same age,” he joked, looking at Smith. “While I was doing ministry, someone was getting facials,” he quipped.

The show closed with Smith joining longtime friend, co-writer, and tourmate Amy Grant at the piano, as she performed her classic “Thy Word,” before they were joined by the rest of the cast of performers for Smith’s signature “Friends.”

Rascal Flatts’ Gary LeVox with Backstreet Boys’ Brian Littrell. Photo: Kurt Heinecke

“35 Years Of Friends: Celebrating The Music Of Michael W. Smith” full setlist:
Phil Keaggy, Mac Powell, Phillips, Craig & Dean, Point of Grace – “Agnus Dei”
Jason Crabb – “Love Crusade”
Ricky Skaggs with The Isaacs – “I’d Rather Have Jesus”
Zach Williams – “I’ll Stand”
David Hamilton – Instrumental
David Hamilton, Jordin Sparks, Jordan Smith – “All is Well”
Matthew West – “Go West”
Charlie Daniels – “How Great Thou Art”
Charlie Daniels with Michael W. Smith – “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”
Jars of Clay – “I’ll Lead You Home”
Rascal Flatts – “Pray for Me”
Avalon with Jay DeMarcus – “I Will Be Here”
Mark Lowry – “Face in This World”
Gatlin Brothers with Phillips, Craig & Dean – “Shine On Us”
Sandi Patty and Natalie Grant – “How Majestic”
Jim Brickman – “Love of My Life”
Michael W. Smith with original band – “Could He Be Messiah,” “Be Strong,” “You Need a Savior”
Randy Travis and Steven Curtis Chapman – “Above All”
Lee Greenwood with Wes King and sons – “There She Stands”
Brian Littrell – “Place in This World”
Michael W. Smith – “Secret Ambition”
Oak Ridge Boys – “Draw Me Close”
Nicole C. Mullen, Danny Gokey, Katinas, Matthew Ward, Calvin Nowell – “Crown Him with Many Crowns, ” “Easter Song”
CeCe Winans with Point of Grace – “King of Glory”
Matt Maher – “This is Your Time”
Laura Story with Francesca Battistelli – “How to Say Goodbye”
Russ Taff – “Healing Rain”
Wayne Kirkpatrick with Vince Gill – “Never Been Unloved”
Mark Hall – “I’m Waiting on You”
Tait, Matt Maher, Avalon, Wynonna, CeCe Winans – “Help Is on the Way”
Wynonna – “Majesty”
Amy Grant with Michael W. Smith – “Love Will Find a Way,” “Thy Word”
All sing including T. Graham Brown – “Friends”

Wynonna with Michael W. Smith. Photo: Gretchen Demonbreun

Scott Hamilton with Vince Gill. Photo: Kurt Heinecke

Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant. Photo: Gretchen Demonbreun

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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